Kevin Phillips fears Sunderland striker Ross Stewart will struggle to get game time at the Stadium of Light this season.

The 2000 European Golden Shoe winner, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, claimed there is “no way” Black Cats boss Lee Johnson will drop the in-form Charlie Wyke.

Wyke has scored 22 goals in 33 appearances across all competitions this season – only Peterborough’s Jonson Clarke-Harris has scored more in League One.

The Black Cats bolstered their attacking options with the signing of Ross Stewart from Ross County last month but the centre-forward is yet to make his debut.

He joined Sunderland at the end of January while nursing a hamstring problem but Lee Johnson last week revealed that he is in training and likely to be in contention next month.

When asked by Football Insider for his assessment of Stewart’s game time, Phillips said:

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“It is going to be very difficult for him to get into the side because there is no way Lee Johnson is dropping Charlie Wyke.

“Even if he went a few games without a goal, at this level he is a threat. The partnership that he and McGeady is striking up is very hot at the moment.

“Stewart has got to keep training well, and keep ready so that when he is called upon he is ready to take his chance.

“At the moment though Wyke is one of the first names if not the first name on the team sheet. It is always good to have competition though so his return is good news.” 

Speaking on Stewart’s return from injury, Johnson said: “I’m sure Ross will almost be feeling like the forgotten man because as a new player, you want to come into a club and hit the ground running.

“He’s back out there running and he’s moving again, but whilst we have strikers in form, we can afford to take our time.”

In other news, Phillips excited by ‘big’ update on Flanagan’s Sunderland return.